Cinematographers

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“This Little Live Show I was Doing on the Board”: DP Larry Sher on Joker

The Gotham City of Joker is a mere fraction of a degree removed from the New York City of 1981, a time and place Larry Sher knows well. The Hangover and Godzilla: King of the Monsters cinematographer grew up in nearby Teaneck, New Jersey and would sneak into the city on the bus as a teenager in the early 1980s. Sher channeled those experiences—as well as the seminal New York films of the era—to evoke the alienating urban nightmare of Gotham.  “My approach for Joker was to feed a little bit off of what the city looked like in my […]

“A Scare is an Algorithm”: DP Checco Varese on It Chapter Two

Read a few Checco Varese interviews and you’ll quickly discover that the Peruvian cinematographer likes to talk about his job through similes and metaphors. He’ll compare cinematographers to chefs who shop at the same store and cook with the same ingredients, yet create distinct dishes. He’ll say that partnering with a director is like partnering in a marriage (sometimes for Varese that’s literally true–his wife Patricia Riggen is a director and frequent collaborator). He’ll tell you that a good scare is like an algorithm or that crafting a suspense sequence is akin to nurturing a plant. For It Chapter Two, […]

“If a Director Feels the Need to Move the Camera Simply to ‘Make It Interesting,’ It’s Likely an Indicator the Scene Itself Isn’t That Interesting”: DP Erik Messerschmidt on Mindhunter, Season Two

When David Fincher transitioned from music videos to feature films in the 1990s, the descriptors “glossy,” “slick” and “stylized” were frequently affixed to his work. Those adjectives were often aimed as pejoratives, categorizing Fincher as a technical virtuoso who created shiny but hollow thrillers. Watching the second season of Netflix’s Mindhunter—executive produced and partially directed by Fincher—the evolution of the filmmaker’s aesthetic is striking. As FBI profilers Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) interview America’s most notorious serial killers, the camera rarely moves. Instead, it unobtrusively observes.  What hasn’t changed over the years is Fincher’s unwavering exactitude, […]

“We Decided Early On That There was Never Going to Be A Single Lock-off Shot”: DP Erik Wilson on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

The original Dark Crystal was released on December 17th, 1982 , four days before my fifth birthday. I don’t remember exactly when my mom took me to see it. I can only tell you that when she did, the movie–and its lizard-like villains, the Skeksis—scared the crap out of me. There is a generation of kids who were similarly terrified and enthralled by the film, which was much darker than unsuspecting parents anticipated from Jim Henson, the man behind The Muppets and Sesame Street.  Erik Wilson—the cinematographer of Netflix’s new 10-episode prequel The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance—was not among […]

“Imagine Making a Movie Without Tape”: DP Brett Jutkiewicz on Ready or Not

In Ready or Not, a bride spends her wedding night playing a deadly game of hide and seek with her new in-laws, a clan of board game magnates beholden to a curse that requires them to dispose of the newlywed before dawn. The film unfolds almost entirely at the wealthy family’s estate, an opulent expanse shot mainly at the historic Parkwood Estate near Toronto. Ready or Not’s $6 million budget and 26-day shooting schedule are modest for a wide theatrical release, but for cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz the scale is downright gluttonous compared to past efforts like Benny and Josh Safdie’s […]

“There Is No Video Village”: DP Robert Richardson on Shooting Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood in 35mm

During lunch break on a Western TV series, fading star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) settles into a director’s chair next to his nine-year-old co-star. The young actress is armed with a Walt Disney biography, Dalton a pulpy Western novel. The girl asks Dalton about the story in his book and he recounts the tale of an over-the-hill bronco buster that eerily mirrors his own circumstances. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a loving valentine to an era of studio filmmaking that was coming to an end in 1969, but it’s also a rumination on the inevitability of aging and mortality […]

“If I’m Not Nervous About Getting Fired Between Wrap and Dailies…I Probably Didn’t Push Myself Hard Enough”: Cinematographer David Klein Discusses his Emmy-Nominated Work on Deadwood: The Movie

When HBO pulled the plug on Deadwood a dozen years ago, it left the denizens of the lawless South Dakota boomtown dangling at the end of a Season 3 cliffhanger. The show’s ostensible hero (marshal Seth Bullock, played by Timothy Olyphant) and villain (saloon owner Al Swearengen, played by Ian McShane) were left equally battered and bruised by a common enemy in ruthless mining magnate George Hearst. Imagine if the original Star Wars trilogy ended after The Empire Strikes Back and you’ll get a sense of the incompleteness that has haunted Deadwood fans over the years – myself included. HBO […]

The Unsettling Glow of Daylight: DP Pawel Pogorzelski on Shooting the Folk Horror of Midsommar

In the span of just two features, writer/director Ari Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski have forged a signature style that cloaks the heightened emotions of melodrama behind the veil of the horrific. In last year’s Hereditary, the Ordinary People-esque family tragedy unfolded in a haunted house, where a matriarch’s sense of being cursed manifested itself literally. In the new film Midsommar, the crumbling relationship between two American grad students plays out against the backdrop of an isolated Swedish community whose harvest festival isn’t quite as benign as it first appears. With Midsommar out now in wide release, Pogorzelski talked to […]

“There’s Something to Be Said for Eliminating Variables and Keeping Things Simplistic”: DP Mike Gioulakis on the Doppelgängers of Us

In Jordan Peele’s Us, a middle class family returns home from a day at the beach to find themselves under siege by murderous doppelgängers clad in red jumpsuits and wielding scissors. Instead of leaning primarily on face replacements, compositing and other post production tricks, cinematographer Mike Gioulakis emphasized clever camera placement and the use of doubles to create the illusion of Lupita Nyong’o and her clan battling their alter egos. With Us hitting Blu-ray and other home entertainment platforms last week, Gioulakis walked Filmmaker through some of the film’s most memorable shots. Filmmaker: Since we spoke for It Follows, you’ve shot two M. Night […]

Day For Night on The Dead Don’t Die: Director Of Photography Frederick Elmes Shoots Jarmusch’s Zombies

Fred Elmes invited me to a DI Theater at Harbor Picture Company, a post-house bustling around the corner from Film Forum, to talk about his work on Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. There was just an hour left of the allotted time to finish the HDR version of the film when I arrived at the DI suite, but Fred retained his cool as he lulled us to the finish line. In my time there, he liked to vignette the edges more or less, and bring faces up or down a level or two. Usually down.  Our meeting there was […]